By at least one measure, the ninth season of Ralph Friedgen's tenure at Maryland was the worst in school history.
No Terrapin team ever had 10 or more losses in a season until the 2009 Terrapins finished their season with a hard-fought 19-17 loss to Boston College.
That left Maryland with a 2-10 record, and a lot of questions about the future of the coaching staff.
To hear the coaching staff tell it, bad luck and bad breaks were what separated the Terps from a bowl bid. Maryland lost by one point to Middle Tennessee, two to Boston College, three at Florida State and four at Duke.
On the other hand, only an overtime victory over James Madison and a three-point victory over Clemson kept the team from an 0-12 finish.
There's also no doubt that injuries played a role in the team's misfortunes.
Maryland was 2-3 after beating Clemson on Oct. 3, but was faced with the loss of reigning All-ACC running back Da'Rel Scott for six weeks because of an injury.
Maryland didn't win again, and the running game was disappointing until he returned.
The team's top offensive lineman, Bruce Campbell, battled injuries all year. Chris Turner suffered a knee injury in the loss to North Carolina State. Defensive stalwart Nolan Carroll's senior season ended early.
The bottom line, however, is that 2009 left the program at a crossroads. Four of the last six Terrapin squads have finished with losing records, and the declining ticket sales reflect that.
Nearly 6,000 fewer season tickets were sold in 2009 than in 2005, and with an expanded Byrd Stadium and new luxury suites to fill, the pressure will be on the football team to take a big step forward.
As for Friedgen, he said after the loss to Boston College that in the post-game locker room, "I just told them how proud I was of them and I told them how I expect to be back and if not, tell them how much I love them and appreciated their efforts this whole year."
Friedgen was to meet with the athletic director in early December to determine his future.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Maryland 24, Clemson 21 -- The Terrapins' ACC opener turned out to be the team's last win of the season, but for a brief and shining moment Maryland was in first place in the ACC. Chris Turner threw for two touchdowns, and Demetrius Hartsfield sealed the deal with a sack, forced fumble, and recovered fumble with 27 seconds to play.
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR:
LB Alex Wujciak -- Ironically, the linebacker who spent his first two years on campus struggling with injuries has emerged as the most stable force of a unit that has battled the injury bug over the last two seasons. He finished with 131 tackles, two short of his mark in 2008, making him the first Maryland defender since E.J. Henderson to finish with 125 or more in back-to-back seasons. He also set the Maryland record for interception return yards, as he brought back both his picks for big gains.
WR Torrey Smith -- A year ago, Smith was dangerous mainly as a kick returner. This year, the offensive coaches did a better job of getting him more touches as he fit seamlessly into the playmaker role vacated by Darius Heyward-Bey. The sophomore led the team with 61 catches -- the most since Jermaine Lewis had 66 as part of Mark Duffner's run-and-shoot offense in 1995 -- and temporarily set the ACC single-season all-purpose yards record with 2,192 yards.
FAST FORWARD: The good part of having only 14 seniors is that there isn't a lot to replace. Chris Turner was a three-year starter at quarterback, but got hurt in November, giving Maryland a sneak preview of what life will be like if Jamarr Robinson wins the job next year. Phil Costa was a rare bit of dependability on a mediocre offensive line and will be missed, as will four-year starter Cory Jackson at fullback. The defense suffers big losses in the secondary (Nolan Carroll, Jamari McCullough, Terrell Skinner, Anthony Wiseman and Richard Taylor) and the defensive line (Travis Ivey, Jared Harrell and Deege Galt).
RECRUITING TRAIL: As one might expect of a 2-10 team that has battled questions about its coaching staff's future, Maryland has had some de-commits. Tight end Sean Fitzpatrick left the Terps for North Carolina, and fellow TE Nermin Delic had a change of heart and made a verbal commitment to Kentucky. Defensive tackle Darius Kilgo is one recruit who could win time early, and there are a couple of more quarterbacks who could battle for the job in the spring. Only one recruit thus far, however, is an offensive lineman.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Probably the best losing team I've seen. We fought hard all year. I wouldn't trade playing with these guys for the world. Things didn't go the way we wanted. It seems we had great leadership and we fought all year, that's something to be proud of. It just gives us more motivation for next year." -- Wide receiver Torrey Smith, talking about the 2009 season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2010:
RB Da'Rel Scott -- Any doubt as to Scott's importance to the team was erased when the team's running game struggled once he went down because of a broken bone in his arm in the victory over Clemson. Maryland has a crowded backfield and many capable options there, but Scott is in a class by himself.
QB Jamarr Robinson -- Robinson played well enough down the stretch that he'll enter the spring as the clear No. 1 on the depth chart. He was more dangerous with his feet than with his arm, and will be pushed by the redshirt freshmen and newcomers on the depth chart, so he can't afford to rest on his laurels.
LB Demetrius Hartsfield -- Hartsfield, a redshirt freshman in 2009, emerged as one of the big playmakers on the defense. He missed time because of a broken bone in his hand, but came back strong at the end of the season and should be a force again in 2010.
FB Cory Jackson -- A four-year starter at fullback, Jackson is a solid blocker and pass-catcher who can help clear the way for a tailback or carry the ball when needed. He's one of the best available at his position, though fullbacks tend to go late in the draft.
G Phil Costa -- Costa's big attribute will be his versatility. He can play pretty much anywhere on the offensive line, which will make him a more attractive candidate to NFL scouts.
S Terrell Skinner -- Skinner is a solid safety who could work his way onto an NFL roster or practice squad if he impresses on special teams.
--P Travis Balz began the season as one of nine on the Ray Guy Watch List, for the award given to the top college punter. However, the sophomore missed three games because of an injured ankle and the final two games of the season because of a broken bone in his finger. He will be ready to make another run at the honor in 2010.
--QB Danny O'Brien had his redshirt year saved -- barely. The true freshman was No. 2 on the depth chart for two of the final three games once Chris Turner went down against North Carolina State because of an MCL injury, and coach Ralph Friedgen said up until the final minute that he would consider burning the redshirt year if he needed O'Brien to win. That didn't happen, however, so O'Brien will have four years of eligibility beginning in 2010.
--S Kenny Tate had a solid year at safety before spraining an ankle against Virginia Tech and missing the final two games of the season. The coaching staff would like to see the former high school All-American wide receiver become more of an impact player in 2010.